Admit it: you had The Union pegged as a consolation prize. Like Robert Plant in Band Of Joy or Keith Richards in the Winos, Luke Morley’s cradle-snatching hook-up with Peter Shoulder initially felt like a vehicle to be tolerated, from the bar, but only from a sense of duty, and they’d better bloody play some Thunder songs.
How fickle we are. From the moment they detonated High Voltage in 2010 – when nobody even knew a word of the debut – rock’s odd couple have exercised squatters rights in our affections. This band is not Morley’s midlife crisis; it’s his Indian summer.
Siren’s Song is not sufficiently life-changing to stop journalists asking after Danny Bowes, but it’s strong enough to reiterate a no-brainer: The Union deserve your attention, however you feel about Morley’s CV. As the silverback, the guitarist could have milked his old tricks, but as before, there’s a sense of the 51-year-old kicking his own arse, writing for his wingman’s yearning voice and letting folkier, rootsier influences marinate among the crunchy blues-rock. Most of the time, this musical blank cheque leads the duo down some promising avenues.
Siren’s Song kicks off with a blinder, on a title track that rattles and wheezes for a full minute before the power kicks in, for the most exciting acoustic-to-electric gearshift since Bring It On Home. Just as good is Blame It On Tupelo, with God’s own verse riff. But just when you’re mentally writing your hyperbolic review, there’s a frustrating lull with Orion. It’s hard to believe that neither man piped up: “Er, doesn’t this one sound exactly like Sting’s face-clawingly irritating Shape Of My Heart…?”
But it’s soon forgotten, trampled beneath the hooves of the mighty Obsession, the Dylan-esque sunny-side-up strum of Make Up Your Mind, and further superior headbangers in The Remedy and Burning Daylight. ‘Groove’ is the operative word here, but ‘heart’ is close behind, with wee-small-hours slow blues Cut The Line proving The Union’s balladry doesn’t have to be mawkish.
The ball isn’t dropped until you reach the closing If I Could Make You Mine, which evokes Shoulder cat-crawling across a Steinway in a cocktail lounge. “I’ve never been one to settle for second-best,” croons Shoulder at one point. Increasingly, The Union doesn’t feel like that.
Siren’s Song is quality stuff, and with a couple of duds cut, you’d have to tie yourself to the mast to resist it.